Sep 4, 2017

Doing Business In Nigeria – Immigration Visas And Their Tax Implications (Part 1)


The mobility of foreigners in and out of Nigeria for whatever purpose is generally subject to visa and permit requirements. The only category of persons exempted from visa and permit requirements are nationals of Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (“ECOWAS”). By section 37(13) of the Immigration Act, 2015(“the Act”) and Regulation 5(9) of the Immigration Regulations, 2017 (“the Regulations”) made by the Minister of Interior pursuant to section 112(1) of the Act, such nationals of Member States of ECOWAS are exempted from not only obtaining entry visas/permits but are also allowed to reside, work and undertake commercial and industrial activities within Nigeria provided however that they register with the Nigerian Immigration Service (“the NIS”) and obtain residence cards from the NIS.

However, the types of visas or permits which foreigners wishing to visit Nigeria for whatever purpose are required to obtain together with the tax implications of these visas and permits will now be considered in details.

By the combined provisions of the Act, the Regulations and the guidelines issued by the NIS from time to time, one of the following visas/permits (generally available to foreign nationals of non ECOWAS countries) shall be obtained by any foreigner seeking to enter Nigeria for whatever purpose:

(1)   Transit Visa: This visa is available to foreign travellers wishing to enter Nigeria for onward destination to another country. The visa is issued for a period not exceeding 7 days and may be extended in the case of certain persons or in special circumstances –Regulation 7 of the Regulations.

(2)   Short Visit Visa or Visiting Visa: This visa is required in the case of foreigners wishing to visit Nigeria for the purpose of tourism or to visit family members and friends – Regulation 6 of the Regulations.

(3)   Business Visa: This visa is to be obtained by foreigners wishing to visit Nigeria for the purpose of attending meetings, seminars, conferences, contract negotiations, marketing, sales, purchase or distribution of merchandise, trade fairs, job interviews, training of Nigerians, emergency/relief work. It is also available to foreign crew members, staff of Non-Governmental Organisations (“NGOs”), researchers and entertainers.

(4)   Visa on Arrival: This visa is available to frequently travelled business persons of international repute and high net worth individuals such as executives of multinational companies etc. – Regulation 9 of the Regulations. It is also issued to intending visitors who may be unable to obtain visas at the Nigerian Missions in their countries of residence due to the absence of a Nigerian Mission in those countries or exigencies of urgent business travels. However, this writer is also aware that babies born to Nigerian parents aboard whose parents are unable to obtain Nigerian passports for them at the Nigerian Missions abroad also do come in on this visa.

The visa is issued to such a qualifying person above upon his/her arrival at a chosen or designated port of entry in Nigeria.

(5)   Temporary Work Permit (TWP): This permit is available to foreigners invited by corporate entities to provide specialised skilled services, such as maintenance or repairs of equipment and machinery, after sales installation, commissioning, upgrading, training, capacity building for Nigerian staff and audits.

Typically, this permit is issued to a foreigner who is not on the expatriate quota position of the corporate entity inviting him/her for a short term work in Nigeria. The permit is issued for a period usually not exceeding 3 months in the first instance and may be renewed – section 37(8) of the Act, Regulation 8 of the Regulations.

(6)   Diplomatic Visa: This visa is available to visiting Heads of States and their family members, top officials of government and their families, accredited diplomats and their family members, holders of United Nations and international agencies diplomatic passport and laisser passez.

(7)   Subject to Regularization (STR) Visa: This visa is available to a number of foreigners who include: foreign employees that are in Nigerian companies/entities’ expatriate quota positions and their dependants, expatriate technical officials of Missions, foreign students and research fellows, missionaries/clerics and their dependants, expatriate staff of international NGOs and their dependants, government officials and their dependants. This visa is issued for a period not exceeding 90 days within which period, the foreigner is expected to regularise his stay in Nigeria by applying and obtaining a Residency Permit otherwise called Combined Expatriate Resident Permit and Aliens Card (“CERPAC”) – section 37(8) of the Immigration Act, Regulation 8 of the Immigration Regulations.

(8)   Residency Permit/CERPAC: This permit is available to some category of persons who include: foreigners on STR visas mentioned in 7 above who have regularised their immigration positions upon resuming work in Nigeria as well as their dependants, nationals of Member States of ECOWAS, foreign nationals who are married to Nigerians as well as investors that have imported an annual minimum threshold of capital over a period of time as may be specified from time to time in the National Visa Policy or any other such policy. The permit in the case of foreign employees on expatriate quota positions is issued for a period not exceeding 2 years subject to renewal. However, in the case of nationals of Member States of ECOWAS, foreigners married to Nigerians or investors that have imported an annual minimum threshold of capital, the visa is issued on a permanent basis unless where the foreigner ceases to enjoy that marital status or where the investor’s investment in Nigeria falls below the minimum required threshold –section 37(2) and (11) of the Act, Regulation 5 of the Immigration Regulations.

The tax implications of these visas and permits would be considered in details in my concluding part of this article (Part 2). 

This article is intended to provide general information on the legal issues addressed. It does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Where legal advice is needed, please consult a tax advisor or solicitor.

Anthony Ezeamama is a corporate commercial lawyer and a tax specialist.